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Behind the Scenes

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This is a behind the scenes subpage for Gordon.
This subpage contains all behind the scenes material relating to said article.

Background Information

The Railway Series

Gordon is a fictional standard gauge tender locomotive created by the Rev. W. Awdry. He is the No. 4 engine on the North Western Railway.

He first appeared in The Railway Series book, The Three Railway Engines, which was published in 1945. His last appearance was in Thomas and his Friends, published in 2011.

Front of Gordon:

Rear of Gordon:


Gordon is based on the LNER A1 and A3 Class locomotives, particularly the Flying Scotsman. Gordon is the last remaining brother of the Flying Scotsman, and is mentioned as being Mallard's cousin.

Television Series

In 1984, Gordon was introduced in the first series of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and has appeared in every series as one of the main characters since.

Neil Crone voiced the character in Thomas and the Magic Railroad, giving the character a faint but noticable British accent. Keith Wickham assumed the character's role in the UK and Kerry Shale in the US. While Wickham maintains Gordon with a British accent, Kerry Shale's performance is clearly American.

Behind the Scenes

Awdry's model

Gauge 1 model

Gordon’s original model was custom built to run on gauge 1 track for the Unaired Pilot. The model was built with a perspex body shell by model maker Martin Gill. It was painted using glossy car body paint and lined with red automotive pinstripe tape with the numbers being custom cut vinyl stickers. The axleguards on Gordon's tender were made by Tenmille. The chassis was built from scratch, it was never tested before being filmed in front of the camera and proved to be unreliable.

After the first series was approved for production the model was then fitted with a new chassis that was sourced from a gauge 1 locomotive made by Märklin, the BR 78. The footplate slope was cut to not hang as low which allowed for the bufferbeam to be raised up and pushed further back, this was likely done due to the new chassis and for the buffers to line up with rolling stock better. The front of the boiler was cut back to move the face further back and lamp irons were added. The insides of the cylinders were cut due to the shortened front bogie contacting them when going around curves.

Gordon’s perspex model was originally AC powered as this is how the Märklin locomotives were powered. This required the polarity switch which was originally mounted in front of the main motor to be moved to the tender, allowing space for the smoke mechanism which sat in between the motor and eye mechanism. During a refurbishment his AC motor was replaced by a DC motor to allow for easier running and maintenance.

The scratch built chassis was later cut up and used as scrapyard dressing.

During the production of the tenth series two new models of Gordon were built. This was due to the original model being twenty-two years old at this point and the tight filming schedules meant there was very little room for emergency repairs.[1]

The new models were made out of brass, equipped with a CNC machined aluminium chassis powered by a DC motor. From this point the perspex model would only appear in scenes that would damage the brass models.[1]

The eye mechanism had two servos, one for up and down movement and one for left and right movement. The up/down servo was attached to the body. The left/right servo had a rod attached to the arm, which connected to a bracket. The eye balls were coupled to the bracket and locked in by the face-plate, so whenever the servos were powered, the eye balls would move however the crew member desired.

Twenty-two different facial expressions were sculpted for Gordon, although only twenty were used onscreen. The faces were first sculpted in clay and from that resin casts were made of a silicone mould. Some of Gordon’s faces were duplicated in case the crew needed to a face to look dirty and clean on the same day of shooting. Three of Gordon's face masks are owned by Twitter user ThomasTankMerch.

The twelfth series marked the beginning of the show's transition into CGI and the characters' faces were animated through CGI with the aid of motion-capture animation. The physical models' molded faces were replaced by white targets with triangles to fix a computer-animated face in post-production. Gordon’s resin faces were only used in background shots.

Gordon’s gauge 1 model has gone through several aesthetic changes in the television series:

  • Series 4:
    • His brake pipe is facing downward.
    • He shares the same whistle sound as Duck in nearly all of his roles.
  • Series 5:
  • Thomas and the Magic Railroad:
    • His paint was given a matte finish.
    • His brake pipe is facing upward again.
    • He gained red lining on the cab end of his tender.
    • His trailing wheels moved forward, joining to his driving wheel chassis.
  • Series 6:
    • The lining on his pistons was moved slightly inwards.
  • Series 8:
    • His eyebrows become thinner and arch more.
  • Series 10:
    • The cuts along his cylinders to allow room for the bogey to swivel become much cleaner.
    • His eyebrows change shape completely and become thicker.
    • His steam pipes became taller 
  • Series 12:
    • The lining on the cab end of his tender was removed.
    • His cab has been slightly lowered.

Some of Gordon's faces have been seen mistakenly on Henry in Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady, Thomas and the Billboard and Heave Ho Thomas!.

One of Gordon’s brass models is now on display at Hara Model Railway Museum. It had previously been on display at Nitrogen Studios.

Close-up model

CGI model

In 2009, the series introduced Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) as a replacement for the show's long-standing live-action models. Gordon was recreated from scratch in CGI by Nitrogen Studios. His model was "hand-sculpted" in Maya, a 3D animation and modelling software.

Photographs of Gordon's Gauge 1 model were used for referencing. According to Greg Tiernan, every detail of the original television series models for each character is carefully reproduced in the CGI model. The models are subjected to many rounds of review before they are submitted to HiT Entertainment for final input and approval.

In 2016, a new render of Gordon was made for the special The Great Race. This render depicted him in streamlined casing, with everything bar the face being completely changed. The "Shooting Star" render only appeared in The Great Race.

Gordon's CGI model was identical to his Gauge 1 model but has had slight modifications, these include:

  • Hero of the Rails:
    • The wheels on his bissel truck and tender got larger.
    • His tender's height got thinner.
  • Series 13:
    • The middle sections of his driving wheels are painted black.
  • Series 17:
    • He gained a permanent head lamp and tail lamp.
    • His wheels are fully blue again.
  • The Adventure Begins:
    • His side rods become silver.
  • Series 23:
    • He gains another lamp on his left lamp iron, giving him the BR express headcode.
    • He gains handrails around his cab entrance and on his door.
    • He gains rivets on his cab, bufferbeams front and sides, the back and sides of his tender, his coupling hook base, around his cab side windows, cylinders, smokebox saddle and around his smokebox.
    • He gains red lining on the back of his tender.

Voice Actors

References

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